Tag Archives: Churches of Screven County GA

Saint Joseph Catholic Church, 1911, Screven County

Saint Joseph in the Bay Branch community is a rare rural Catholic congregation which for many years was the only such church between Savannah and Augusta. In their sesquicentennial history, One Faith…One Family, the Savannah Diocese notes: Bishop Benjamin J. Keiley…dedicated Saint Joseph Catholic Church and Cemetery on May 14, 1911. For about 40 years before the Bay Branch church was built, Catholic Mass was celebrated by priests from Savannah in the homes of Slavic and German Catholic families in rural Screven County

The simple architecture of the church is typical of rural congregations in Georgia throughout the late-19th and early-20th centuries. It is beautifully maintained.

Johnson Grove Baptist Church, Screven County

This historic congregation was established in 1909.

At some point, the smaller church was replaced with a larger one. An historic lodge is also located on the property.

Walker Grove Church, Newington

I’ve not been able to locate any history of Walker Grove Church, but it is an important landmark of African-American religious architecture and was obviously integral to its community since. This style was very common among African-American congregations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and I believe the church dates to the early 1900s-1910s. A school was located on the same property.

Board walls were paneled and sheet rock and ceiling tiles added at some point in the congregation’s history. There is no air conditioning and since I didn’t locate a chimney I presume there was a flue for a pot-bellied stove somewhere.

A baptismal is located beside the church.

Bethel Brick United Methodist Church, 1827, Screven County

Brick Church was established on land given by the Reverend Payton Wade and built by enslaved persons from Sam Manor’s nearby Lebanon Forest plantation. Manor’s daughter Sarah was the wife of Reverend Wade, having married him upon the death of her first husband, the Reverend John Crawford. Upon Sarah’s death, Reverend Wade married her younger niece Elizabeth Robert. It’s the oldest extant church building in Screven County. So many early wooden churches have been lost to time, but Brick Church has weathered nearly two centuries. Reverend Wade owned over 500 slaves, and Brick Church counted far more African-American members than whites in the antebellum era. A slave gallery was located around the upper part of the interior but was later removed; the small windows (now boarded shut) along the top of the building are evidence of the gallery. James McBride is thought to have been the brick mason and a Mr. Potter the carpenter. The date the name was changed to Bethel is not confirmed, but thought to be in the 1860s.

A nice old cemetery stands adjacent to the church, the final resting place of numerous Wade descendants and relatives, among them numerous doctors and Confederate veterans.

Behind the church is a beautiful remnant pine forest and Tom Hudson Lake, a reservoir on Rocky Creek named for a former Wade Plantation manager.

Douglas Branch Baptist Church, Screven County

This is an architecturally unusual church for the area, but a new favorite of mine. The bricks are handmade. The congregation dates to June 1850 and enslaved persons often attended with their owners.  Many attended after the Civil War but likely dispersed during Reconstruction. (Source: A Brief History of Douglas Branch Baptist Church, Mrs. H. S. McCall, 1938).

I was rushed when I made the photographs and didn’t have time to explore the adjacent cemetery, but it’s quite large and is the final resting place for many early citizens of Screven County.

Oak Grove Methodist Church, 1919, Screven County

Oak Grove stands at the end of a lonely dirt road in rural Screven County, not far from the Savannah River and the South Carolina state line. It’s as perfect a setting for such a place as one could imagine. Established in the first generation after slavery, the congregation dates to 1876. The first church built here is now lost to history, but was likely of crude construction. The present structure, which is critically endangered and probably beyond saving, was built in 1919. It was in use until the 1970s or early 1980s. The congregation survives at another location today.

Nothing remains inside the church but the ruins of a York Player Piano. I would advise strongly against entering due to the instability of the structure.

Trinity Church, Screven County

This is located just west of Hiltonia. It appears that some of the lumber has been salvaged.

The front gable features shingles at the corners.

The interior, which must have been a lovely space at one time, is merely a shell of its former self today.

Thanks to Rita Howard for the identification.


Wesleyanna Memorial Methodist Church, 1870, Screven County

This quaint historic church is a testament to a congregation’s desire to preserve a place of worship, long after its last regular services were held. Most of the people in this community weren’t even born when the church was still active but according to Cheryl Bazemore, whose grandparents were among the builders of the church, a homecoming is held by descendants of the congregation each year. This explains the ceiling fans.

It’s a simple, utilitarian design, with board-and batten exterior walls, and very plain pews and pulpit, yet it really exemplifies the beauty of the country church.

A historic marker placed on the grounds in 1963 states: Organized 1868 under bush arbor on Stephen D. Lewis farm by Elder Theo. A. Pharr, John Hardy Bolton, Julia Wells Bolton, Stephen D. Lewis, Martha Howard Lewis, Paul Jenkins, Temperance Jenkins, Fulton L. Oglesby, Mary Bolton Oglesby and others on land given by Alexander James Wells and Isaac Thomas Bazemore. Original Trustees: John W. Boston, James Allen Bazemore, Green Berry Waters, Alexander James Wells and Abisha Humphrey Bazemore. Among early preachers: John Jenkins, W.D. Smith, Abisha Humphrey Bazemore, A.F. Ellington, Emory F. Dean, Jacob Perry Bazemore, David Matthews Bazemore, A.M. Johnson and John W. Roach.

June, 1957: church and cemetery set aside as perpetual memorial to founders by deed from Methodist Conference to Trustees, all of whom are descendants: Dora Bazemore Brooker, E. Lampkin Bazemore, I. Thomas Sanders, James Eugene Bazemore, Charles Thurman Hopkins, Sr., Lilla Sanders Smith, John W. Gross, Palmer A. Bazemore and Bertha Hoffman.

A sign over the entrance to the church yard dates the building to 1870.


First Baptist Church, 1918, Sylvania

The congregation dates to 1847. The present structure, dating to 1918, was renovated in 1972 by Augusta civil engineer Harry Peihl Vankerhoff.  It’s one of the most noticeable landmarks in Sylvania.

Little Ogeechee Baptist Church, 1912, Oliver

According to Dawn Daley, via present pastor Vernon Edenfield, this is the oldest church in Screven County, and thought to be the second oldest Baptist church in Georgia. Robert Peavy writes: Oliver native Miss Pauline Smith (1885-1963) indicated in her three-page historical sketch of the town of Oliver that the present building was erected about 1912 (when the old Methodist Church was built and when the town was incorporated—the School House, now gone, had been built in 1910). An old photograph of the short-lived Lutheran Church shows rather dimly, in the distance with the cemetery separating them, a not-overly fancy church with a neo-classical porch roof supported by four square columns, which would have replaced the original log building of the Little Ogeechee Baptist Congregation; thus, the present structure is at least the third building for this congregation, which dates to 1790. Robin Robbins also notes that the church was used as a set location for the 1974 movie, Buster and Billie.

Gravestone Art at Little Ogeechee Baptist Church Cemetery

Little Ogeechee, like many old cemeteries, is a beautiful showplace for the stonemason’s art. I’ve chosen a few of my favorite decorative headstones to share.

little ogeechee baptist church cemetery stephen t newton photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

Stephen T. Newton (29 May 1829-6 December 1882)

little ogeechee baptist church cemetery naomi morton photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

Naomi Morton (1806-16 October 1887)

little ogeechee baptist church cemetery bernard horton photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

Bernard Horton Huggins (25 August 1906-26 March 1908)

little ogeechee baptist church cemetery lanier toddler photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

Daughter of W.V. & L. O. Lanier (14 March 1917-2 February 1918)

little ogeechee baptist church cemetery florie brewer photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

Florie A. Brewer (12 August 1845-17 September 1891)

little ogeechee baptist church cemetery oscar w brewer photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

Oscar W. Brewer (17 October 1872-8 March 1889)

little ogeechee baptist church cemetery miss levina morton photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

Levina Morton (20 May 1825-16 June 1899)

little ogeechee baptist church cemetery martha dugger photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

Martha A. Dugger (14 June 1829-13 February 1897)

little ogeechee baptist church miriam lee photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

Miriam Lee (22 February 1908-22 November 1910)